On July 1st, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) finished its term until October. The history books may refer to the present court as the “Roberts Court,” named so after current Chief Justice John Roberts, but many analysts are talking about Justice Kennedy.
“It is impossible to overstate the importance of Justice Kennedy,” Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News told the audience at the Heritage Foundation last Thursday.
A panel of journalists, including Mr. Stohr, Charles Lane of The Washington Post, and Stephen Henderson of McClatchy Newspapers, focused most of their remarks on “Justice Kennedy’s Hamlet moment,” as Mr. Henderson put it.
Justice Anthony Kennedy has been viewed as a swing vote in the Supreme Court for many years. He often ruled along the same lines as former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Justice O’Connor resigned her position last year and was replaced by Justice Samuel Alito. In this term, Justice Kennedy has started to come out of the shadows and take an active role on the Court.
“I think [Justice Kennedy] knows what he thinks he’s doing,” Mr. Henderson stated. He later went on to say, “He is aware of his importance.”
Mr. Lane agreed with Mr. Henderson by pointing out that Justice Kennedy “is a different kind of decision maker than Justice O’Connor.”
The next term could be especially important for Justice Kennedy’s decision-making skills. Mr. Lane noted that “The Court granted cert” to the partial birth abortion ban as well as two cases that deal with the “race conscious assignment” of students, giving the highest judicial panel in the land the chance to take a new look at these cases.
There has been “no real circuit split on these issues,” Mr. Lane informed the audience. He then added, “It’s going to be interesting to see” how the Court handles these two cases.
Mr. Lane encouraged the audience to pay especially close attention to the two cases that deal with race conscious assignment of students.
In the upcoming cases, the school systems want to create diversity within the school community by bringing in students of other races from outside schools. Unlike the busing of students during the 1960s and 1970s, the school system is not being forced to integrate but rather doing it voluntarily.
“Think about what a complete reversal that is from 1954.” In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled segregation illegal at schools in the Brown v. Board case.
Matthew Murphy is an intern at Accuracy in Academia.